Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, May 2, 2014


Pulptime:  Being a Singular Adventure of Sherlock Holmes, H. P. Lovecraft, and the Kalem Club, as if Narrated by Frank Belknap Long, Jr. by Peter H. Cannon (1984)

The plot of this little exercise is simple.  It's 1925 and Lovecraft has taken a small apartment in New York after his wife Sonia has left for work in the Midwest.  One of the upstairs apartment has been taken by an old bearded man calling himself Mr. Altamont.  Altamont, of course, is Holmes, coming out of retirement for one last case.  On the recommendation of a mutual acquaintance, Harry Houdini, Holmes was seeking out Lovecraft to help him regain some stolen documents that are of vital importance to his unnamed British client.

Along for the ride is our narrator and Lovecraft's good friend and protégé, Frank Belknap Long.  the documents are in the hands of the secret crime boss Jan Martese.  Martese's girlfriend is the lovely Cordelia Garrison, a psychic to New York's social elite.  Holmes and Lovecraft soon enlist the help of Lovecraft's "gang," the Kalem Club -- a "literary" group of men who meet every other week for general discussion, called the Kalem Club because all original members had last names that began with K, L, or M.

There's atmosphere aplenty, and some thrills, but the main attraction of Pulptime is Cannon's portrayal of the characters taken from real life.  Lovecraft's quirks and affectations are one full display, as of those of Long, and, to a lesser extent, Houdini, poet Hart Crane, and the Kalem Club -- Samuel Loveman, Rheinhart Kleiner, Everett McNeil, George Kirk, Wheeler Dryden, and James Morton.  Holmes, although faculties appear remain sharp, is shown as someone who's mind drifts a bit and who is begin to fail physically. (I really liked the scene where teetotal Lovecraft has to visit a speakeasy and runs into a drunken Hart Crane.)

Cannon, a Sherlockian and a Lovecraftian, has a fine old time crafting the story.  (I really liked the scene where a teetotal Lovecraft has to visit a speakeasy.)  The novella was first published by W. Paul Ganley's Weirdbook Press and more lately in Cannon's collection The Lovecraft Papers (which also contains the stories from Scream for Jeeves, a Bertie Wooster/Cthulu mash-up --also recommended).

Long himself contributes the foreword in which he explains his mother's over-solicitous behavior to her son (Long was recovering from a major heart attack in 1925 and his mother was concerned about his health; never fear, though, Long lived to be 92 and died in 1994).  Robert Bloch's afterward explained about Harry Houdini's public persona and his private life; it was the public persona Cannon portrayed in the story.

I had a great time with this book, although I suspect those with no interest in Lovecraft would not be as appreciative.  But then, those persons wouldn't have picked up the book anyway.


  1. I do enjoy a good Holmes pastiche, but this one doesn't sound quite like my culpa.

  2. that last word was changed by autocorrect. It should have been "cuppa"

    1. Richard, was that last comment a "mea cuppa"?

    2. It was supposed to be "not my cuppa, as in not my cup of tea, as in not my thing.